Thursday, November 15, 2007


Just finished a fun and bizarre evening - 30 minutes of awesomeness surrounded by eight hours of waiting and anticipation. As you may be able to guess from the post title, I have finally managed to fulfill my long-stated goal to meet Barack himself. I have also maintained my long streak of... Exceptional luck with MADD transit, and so I have 90 minutes to kill in Millbrae while I wait for Caltrain. So, you get a blog post that I'm tapping out on my iPhone while listening to Sigur Ros. Please excuse the inevitable typos - I am tired and while this interface is good for a cell phone, it's still very limited.

The event was held at Bill Graham auditorium, and was insane. The invite said that doors opened at 6:30, so I arrived there around then. Should. Have known better - both of the Kerry rallies I attended in KC were very late. Anyways, on my way over on BART, I started worrying as usual about the event - what if it was poorly attended? Would it only be die-hard supporters?

I need not have worried. The line was amazingly long. Bill Graham fills a full city block, and the line (which was several people abreast) stretched all the way around, overlapped itself, then crossed the street to continue. I was amazed.

The crowd was good; in addition to its size, it was broadly diverse, which is always encouraging to see at political events. I had a nice long chat with a grandma from The Avenues, saw plenty of students and professionals, and quite a few young kids. The crowd was predominantly white, but not overwhelmingly so, and a good number of black, Asian and Hispanic people showed up.

The line finally started moving after 7. I didn't get inside until after 8. Once in, I saw why it had taken so long - everyone had to go through metal detectors, of which they had only two.

The mood was festive and upbeat. I opted for a standing spot near the stage rather than a seat in the balcony. The music was actually good, and interesting, more modern that you tend to hear at these kinds of events. People moved around, and folks in the balcony even started doing the wave.

One interesting thing - the music wasn't painfully loud, but it was loud enough that you couldn't hear people on the stage who were not miked up. Some tried to start chants, but we couldn't hear the words, so it really didn't work. That seemed a shame.

Obama was introduced by Alice Walker, who gave a very short but good and well-received greeting. Then the man arrived.

He really does electrify a crowd. The only thing he said for the first minute was "hey," yet the response was overwhelming. He has an undeniable charisma and presence that can fill a room.

The talk itself was solid. Some of it was jockeying clearly aimed at Clinton, though he never named her. The bulk, though, dealt with his vision of America's potential, and his priorities as President.

A lot of what he said would be familiar to people who read the Times; a few things were new to me, though. His specific pledges included:
Withdrawal from Iraq in 16 months
Closing Guantanamo

He also called out the importance of equal rights for gays and lesbians, which of course got a huge reaction. My immediate thought was, "heh, I bet he doesn't use that line in the South." as I reflect on it, though, he probably does. Among the many things I love about Obama, he is very open about his positions, and doesnt shift his message to fit the audience. He'll tell labor groups that global trade is a good thing, and AIPAC that Israel needs to deal more fairly with the Palestinians. So I don't think we were getting the San Francisco edition of his stump speech.

I was struck by his utter hold over the audience (not excluding me). After most statements, wild cheering and clapping would rise in response. But, when he started talking about his mother's death from cancer, the whole auditorium fell silent, thousands waiting, hushed, for the story's end. It was a touching and slightly eerie feeling.

The night ended simply, with him thanking everyone from coming and waving goodbye. Instead of the mad rush for the exits that I expected, people lingered, perhaps hoping for an encore of some sort. Sadly, he will not return to the West Coast until after the primaries start. I hope that when he next arrives, it is as the head of a flush and confident majority, rolling into the general election and a brighter future for our country.

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